On this page you can find information about:
screening tools and how to use them
identifying interventions for a child or young person
how to measure interventions.
Some pupils will need additional support with their mental health, but how do you identify who these children and young people are, and how do you decide which is the most effective intervention to support them?
The Department for Education (DfE)’s guidance on measuring the mental health of children and young people recommends:
using screening tools to make the best use of data
developing an effective pastoral system in which pupils are known well by at least one staff member, so that deteriorating behaviour or mental health do not go unnoticed.
It is important to remember that school and college staff are not expected to be experts in mental health or make diagnoses. However, they are expected to have clear processes in place for identifying possible mental health problems, and be able to signpost children and young people and their families to services when needed.
Screening tools and how to use them
Screening tools are questionnaires or checklists to help assess children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.
As well as offering a broad ‘temperature check’ of pupils in a year group, they can help identify:
ho might benefit from support
he type and level of difficulties pupils are experiencing
Screening tools can be used to identify individual pupils who may need additional support as part of a needs assessment, or more widely for a larger group, for example, if there has been a bereavement in a class. They can also be used to assess and evaluate whether the interventions you’ve put in place are making a difference to a cohort such as a year group or the whole school or college community.
When using a screening tool, it is important to talk to pupils about it. They need to know why they are being asked questions, how their answers will be used, and who will see them. This is particularly important when these tools are used with an individual child or young person as they may raise safeguarding concerns.
You will also need to have a plan or signposting in place to ensure that children and young people can access support and information about helplines if they have any concerns.
Recommended screening tools
Our Wellbeing Toolkit lists several screening tools that you can use to identify children and young people who may need support. One of the most commonly used is the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires (SDQ).
More information about tools to measure individual wellbeing can be found in our toolkit and on the CORC website.
Other ways of identifying pupils who might need additional support
Screening tools are helpful, but they are only part of the process of understanding a child or young person’s needs.
Teachers and professionals working directly with children and young people will know their pupils well and may be able to pick up on or notice subtle changes in behaviour. Teachers may have a sense that something is wrong, and it is important to always follow up on these situations too.
Identifying interventions and support
To identify the right support, you need to know what’s available.
Your local authority will have a list of services. The Early Intervention Foundation guidebook can also help to identify support.
It is important to work closely with local health services and encourage them to understand the support needs of your school or college.
Armed with this knowledge, the information you’ve gathered about a child or young person’s needs and any relevant advice from mental health professionals, you can discuss the list of services available with the child or young person, and their family.
You can then approach an appropriate service and decide together on the best line of support. It is essential that the child or young person is involved and has a say throughout this process. This may differ for younger pupils or those with SEND.
It is also worth noting here that pupils with SEND have higher levels of probable mental health disorders than those without SEND. For both groups however, there has been an increase since 2017 (NHS digital).
Measuring interventions helps you to identify what is working well (and perhaps not so well) in your setting, and where to invest in the future.
It is also something that Ofsted takes seriously, and it is good practice to monitor individual or targeted groups of children or young people with identified needs.
To monitor the impact of pastoral interventions you will need to have a pre-identified set of criteria to review progress against. This should be agreed and shared with the child or young person and their parent/carer.
All schools and colleges are different, as are all children and young people, so it’s important to use a validated tool and then measure the intervention to see whether it is having the expected impact, and whether pupils and staff are really benefitting.
It can be helpful to use the same tool at the start of the intervention process and then again at the end, to show any changes that may be happening. This could also be useful in terms of planning future support.
You can find more information about measuring interventions in our Wellbeing Toolkit, in which we identify seven stages to implementing and evaluating mental health and wellbeing measurements in schools and colleges.
EBPU: logic modelDownload
This logic model can help you to set out what you want to achieve with an intervention and how to measure its impact.
Identifying children and young people at risk of poor social, emotional and mental wellbeingDownload
Recommendation 1.3 in this NICE guidance shares tools and techniques for assessing potential emotional wellbeing issues in children and young people.